Winter Stars by Larry Levis

winter stars 2Series: Pitt Poetry Series

Paperback: 104 pages

Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press; 1 edition (March 31, 1985)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0822953684

ISBN-13: 978-0822953685

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Reviewed by Stephen (S. M.) Page.

When I wake I sip coffee and I am suddenly inspired to add a few more pages to my current poetry project, the verse play (or play-poem, a term I coined, I think).  Then I take a shower and decide I need to get out the house.  I have been inside for almost 48 hours.  I check the weather channel on the net and see that it is 97 degrees outside–with humidity.  I dress accordingly.  I put on a short sleeve linen shirt, linen shorts, leather sandals, a cotton baseball cap.  In the elevator I feel a trickle of sweat run down by belly from my chest.  The street smells of melting tar and car exhaust.  Buses rev their engines and taxis honk.  Angry drivers yell and swear at each other.  I walk quickly as I can to the Village Recoleta Cinemas, an air-conditioned, five-floor twenty-theater complex with seven restaurants, two cafés, a bookstore, a music store, and an ice-cream parlor on the middle floor.  Village Recoleta has the cleanest, coolest, best-view-seating theaters in the city.  Besides that, it’s the only cinema house that has numbered seats, so I can buy my ticket early and stroll in at the last minute and my seat will be open.  There’s no mad rush to get a good seat.  The movie I bought a ticket for does not start for one hour and fifteen minutes, so I take the elevator to the third floor, get in line at the MacDonald’s stand, order a MacNifica combo and leisurely eat it while seated in a chair by the window.  I watch the people walk by on the street.  I check the girls out in their summer dresses and sandaled feet.  I pick out a couple of people going by and watch them, note their dress, their walking style, their idiosyncrasies, and I try to imagine what they are thinking, what their speech mannerisms are, what their lifestyle is, where they are going.  Then I go to the Coffee Store (which is a chain store but has some of the best tasting coffee in the city) and order a cortado—that’s a small coffee cut with milk (Coffees in Argentina are smaller and more concentrated than in the United States.  No tall lattes here, and especially no non-fat cinnamon mocha Frappuccinoes.  The cups are espresso size and approximately the same strength. A customer has the choices of coffee, coffee with milk, and cappuccino.  Argentines are proud of their coffee and their cafés, but a connoisseur needs to shop around because some cafés have great coffee but bad ambience, and some have great ambience but bad coffee—really bad.  Some cafés are good for reading and writing; some are good for watching people.  After seven years here I am pretty much set in the places I like to frequent, but I always keep my eyes open.  Whenever I am about the city and I see a café that I have never been too, I usually stop in and give it a try.  It’s kind of an adventure for me).  After my coffee I stroll into the music store and after a little browsing, I find a CD I never heard before, ‘Jerry Mulligan with Strings.’  I wander to the concession stand and order a large bag of popcorn and a bottle of mineral water, then I casually ride the escalator up to room 16 on the top floor.  I hand my ticket to the ticket taker, enter the dark theater and take my seat just as the Spiderman 3 trailer is ending.  The movie I watch is ‘Hollywoodland,’ which is not especially great.  What weakens the movie are stock characters and clichéd dialogue.  It doesn’t matter that much to me, if I see a good movie I see a good movie (like Erice’s ‘Spirit of the Beehive’) and I feel enlightened, lucky.  I used to be a real movie snob, watching only art films, Sundance-type films, foreign films.  I’ve walked out of theatres in the middle of a movie about a thousand times the last decade or so, whenever a main character became stock, the language clichéd, the actions unbelievable.  Sometime last year I changed.  If I see a not-so-good movie, well: so what.  It’s the action of going to the cinema that I like, the experience, the visceral, sitting in my favorite seat in the sixth row of the middle section along the aisle, munching popcorn and watching the characters move on the big screen above me.  Monday is my movie day.  I usually find an excuse to slip away from home on Monday and see a movie alone.  I often go to the matinees because they are cheaper and there is hardly anyone in the theaters.  Anyway, after the movie I return home and eat dinner, then I unwrap Larry Levis’ Winter Stars, which just arrived that afternoon by DHL courier (it cost me 43 bucks, 12.95 for the book and the rest for shipping, so it better be good Timothy Liu).  It’s not at all good: it’s outstanding.  I especially like the first two poems, ‘The Poet at Seventeen’ and ‘Adolescence’.  The poems are devastatingly surprising, the language fresh, the imagery sharp.  In ‘Poet at 17’ Levis captures well the energetic recklessness and immortal feeling of youth, and juxtaposes it in perfect contrast to the fearful stasis of adulthood.  I notice by the second poem the idiosyncratic use of & for and.  I didn’t notice it at first, so he employs it naturally and stamps himself into the poems.  In all of the poems, Levis has a way of writing about himself but connecting to the reader.  He is an extremely gifted poet.   By the time I get to the end of the book I am exhausted and I fall asleep.

You can find the book here: http://www.amazon.com/Winter-Stars-Poetry-Larry-Levis/dp/0822953684/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Stephen (S. M.) Page in a cafe writing ready to go see a movie– Stephen (S.M.) Page is from the Motor City. He is part Shawnee and part Apache.  He loves to take long walks, watch movies, read, and write.

 

 

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